Archive for June, 2009

My Current Take on Southwest Center Mall

June 29, 2009

A lot has been written lately about Southwest Center Mall. A $120,000 study has been commissioned and presented. Shawn Williams wrote an article for DMagazine. Numerous editorials from various newspapers have been published. I’m not sure if people are going to like what I like to say about the mall, but that’s life.

I’ve been writing about the mall since I started Dallas Progress.

One thing that has to be done, no matter whose feathers get ruffled, is to face facts about the area around the mall. The area around the mall is in shambles.

I don’t feel safe in this area; that is why I have decided to move my family from this neighborhood. The main reason that stores have left is one of the same reasons that I am leaving. All of the writing, trying to expose various issues in this neighborhood, has been for naught. We still don’t get the proper help over here.

Some may feel that I am giving up on this area. All I can say is that I lived it.

All of the police attention in this area goes to the neighborhood east of 67 which includes the Chaucer Place neighborhood. Of course, that is inside the South Central Police division which is led by the magnificent Deputy Chief Sherryl Scott. The west side of 67 (Marvin D Love Freeway) is a different police division.

The only time we had any type of consistent patrols was when Pastor Rickie Rush put together an informal patrol of hundreds of men and dozens of vehicles from IBOC Church. They were the best security we ever had in this area.

While we spent $120,000 for the study of the mall, my buddy Shawn Williams gave you a lot of similar insight for the $5 cost of DMagazine. The study does go into more depth, but the basic premise is the same.

My take is a little different. I feel that putting a lot of money into the mall, and only the mall, is a mistake. When you look at the Urban Land Institute (ULI) study (warning: this is a 15MB PDF so it may take time to download), it draws comparisons to Prestonwood Mall. I can understand that; but what it shows is that the two areas are starkly different in terms of income, worker traffic, and spending power. Instead of the city putting $50+ million (as it has been suggested) into one shopping mall, I would rather it gets spread through a bunch of small centers all over southern Dallas.

With respect to Southwest Center Mall, several opportunities were missed. We know that the retail moved to Cedar Hill. It moved there because the city didn’t support former Councilman James Fantroy’s attempts to revitalize the mall between 2003-2006. For example, he tried to put a new Target and a movie theater in and around the vacant JC Penney space to jumpstart redevelopment but the numbers wouldn’t work without city help. As a result, Inland Southwest began to develop a new center at Hampton & Wheatland which includes the Target store that opened in March of 2008.

Some have suggested that we should consider turning Southwest Center Mall into an outlet mall. However, our chance at the outlet mall opportunity has come and gone. In the past year,Grand Prairie snagged an outlet mall that will be next to I20 & 360 owned by Prime Outlets (the same owner as the one in San Marcos), and another got announced for another city farther north (Irving, I think).

You will never get the income parameters you need to bring the stores that you want until you solve the number one problem around the mall. Again, it goes back to neighborhood safety. You have to start the revitalization by tearing down of some of the apartment complexes in the area.

All of the good businesses are leaving the Mall area, most of the reason is that the business owners and potential customers are constantly robbed and assaulted by criminals in the area. As an example of the issues around here, Pizza Hut won’t even deliver to apartment complexes in our neighborhood.

Some apartment operators work to maintain their properties, keep gates in working order, and make sure that they don’t house criminals. Many do not.

One way these thugs get around background checks is to date a female with a decent job and get the apartment in her name. Then, the thug moves in and here comes the crime. The girl then is scared to kick him out because she has been threatened to keep quiet, and the apartment complex does nothing about it. This happens more than you think.

Some of the worst offenders in the area are below. The good tenants are held hostage in the complexes by the thugs and crime element that certain owners refuse to eradicate.

(the crime numbers for 2009 are from January 1st-June 29th)

  • Whispering Hollow – 6910 S Cockrell Hill Road (100 crimes in 2008, 52 in 2009). Owners are based out of California.
  • Redbird Trails – 3636 W Red Bird – again, the owners are based in California. There is always a line of cars outside the gates because they are always broken. Usually a lot of people walking in and out. You can see the drug traffic.
  • Arborstone – 6500 S Cockrell Hill Rd (58 crimes in 2008, 26 in 2009). Check out this stellar review from apartment

I wouldn’t recommend this place to my worst enemy. First off, there is always trash and broken bottles everywhere. People sit outside and drink beer and smoke weed and nobody does anything. Maintenance doesn’t fix a thing.

They will fix the easiest thing that needs to be fixed and leave the other things broke.

The security guards are a joke. They had some really bad ones before that just flirted and hung out, but now they have “invisible” ones that you never see. Oh, except from when they are sleep in their cars. The office staff are not helpful at all, the only one worth something is Deon who works on the weekends. The manager is mean and could care less about the residents. They can’t answer your questions, you have to keep calling to get any help, they don’t listen to you, but they are quick to put a notice on your door about the smallest fees like a $2.00 fee. I am writing a formal complaint to the owners.

People say they were improving because they evicted some of the drugs dealers here, but what about the other things. The crazy man who walks around and harasses the women in building 11 and 10 whenever he hasn’t taken his pills. The random gunshots. The half man/woman hooker that does its business out of the empty apartments. You mean to tell me I know all this and the office staff doesn’t. So sad. I cannot wait until my lease is up so I can move

Other complexes should also be considered. A check of the crime records or apartment reviews will show similar reports. They include:

  • Park Village -7575 S. Westmoreland – Dallas, TX 75237
  • Harbors – 7550 S. Westmoreland – Dallas, TX 75237
  • Cielo Ranch – 3829 Gannon Lane – Dallas, TX 75237
  • Broadmoor – 3900 Investor Dr – Dallas, TX 75237
  • Brookfield Apts – 4060 Preferred Pl -Dallas, TX 75237

Add in the motels along I-20, and it adds up to a recipe for disaster if left unchecked.

The model for this area should be based on what was done along Skillman. Yes there is a TIF called Skillman Corridor, but most of the developments received no TIF money. In fact, the only major development that received funding was the Lake Highlands Town Center ($23 million for a $350 million development). The total amount of non-TIF related development in this area: $300 million.

Retail developers will return once they see strong signs that the area is changing. Until then, we’ll be writing these types of articles and blog posts for years to come.


City Council Vacations

June 28, 2009

A lot of people wonder about the length of City Council vacations, so I thought I would post the vacation times from various councils across the country:

Philadelphia: three months
Phoenix: two months
Columbus, Ohio, 48 days
Dallas: one month
Houston: one week
New York, Indianapolis, Memphis: no break

Cleveland meets once per month during the summer.
Atlanta has a two-week recess every two months.
Los Angeles has a ten-day recess in summer and winter.

Paul Quinn College Loses Accreditation

June 25, 2009

In the midst of one of the strangest news cycles in some time, this piece of news stuck out to me. Having seen closeup what the loss of accreditation can do to a struggling college, I hope that they can get the situation reversed. The school can file an appeal within 10 days.

If Paul Quinn doesn’t win the appeal, this could be the end of Paul Quinn. Why? Because students at an unaccredited school can’t get financial aid.

I have heard that there will be a news conference tomorrow at the school, so keep an eye out for such an event.

Dwaine Caraway Elected Mayor Pro Tem

June 22, 2009

The 2009-2011 City Council has now been seated and sworn in, and as you can see there are a couple of changes in the Mayor’s Office.

Dwaine Caraway is now the Mayor Pro Tem, and Pauline Medrano is now the Deputy Mayor Pro Tem.

A big welcome goes out to new Councilwomen Delia Jasso (District 1) and Ann Margolin (District 13).

Deion Sanders Prime Time Sports Center is Moving Forward

June 19, 2009

City Council just approved the Prime Time Association football park sponsored by Deion Sanders and led at the city by Dwaine Caraway.

This is a brand new football facility coming to Oak Cliff! This is the same center that I wrote about a few months back. One block at a time, this city will be transformed.

Suggestions for Urban Market

June 17, 2009

A lot has been made about the recent changes to Urbanmarket with respect to the downsizing of the store and rumors that the store may close. Keep in mind that I am referring to the downtown location, not the one in the Cedars.

For those of us that visit Urbanmarket, you know that the cafe has been closed and that reports indicate that the non-food offerings may be scaled back.

I think it’s a great concept and a business that is definitely needed for downtown to thrive.

While many have speculated on what the market needs to do to be more successful, I have found multiple suggestions among my blogging friends:

More after the jump.

1. Marketing. Several people I know work downtown and said they’ve never seen any info about the market at their offices, and most co-workers don’t know that it exists. I’ve also been to several high-rises downtown and none of the leasing agents mentioned Urbanmarket as an amenity. These two groups are your customer base and represent major dollars if catered to in a major way.

From a friend:

Well as good as Urban Market says its doing, they should do more to make themselves known to the apartment buildings downtown. Every time I’m in there it seems like every person walking out is going to the Power & Light Building or the Interurban building itself. I’d venture that there might be a good portion of people that live downtown in buildings north of Commerce that don’t know about the Grocery or have misconceptions about it.

They should institute an online ordering system. The store is slightly cumbersome to navigate because things are crammed wherever they can get 2 ft of shelf space and not easily found unless you ask or take time to search. The online ordering would be unique and truly make it a quick seamless process of shopping.

The bottom line is a majority of people don’t shop there that live downtown, and short of sitting in Pegasus square during downtown special events, the store does nothing to promote itself.

As far as advertising, I agree. I know of a person who just now found out Urban Market is in the downtown area. He has lived here for over a year.

(note: I did find that they offer a personal shopping service on their website)

2. Prices. While I don’t expect prices to be at the level of Target or Wal-Mart, several people I know shop at the 7-11 or CVS for many items because the price difference is significant between those stores and Urbanmarket.

A friend chimes in:

I have to say, I am not surprised they are struggling. Their service has always been lacking. CVS seems to be doing well and so does the 7-11. Urban Market’s price structure seems to have always been on the greedy side.

Lets take Horizon Milk for example – $4.69/carton? Lets compare it to Central Market (not Walmart).

CM price is $3.39 (UM is 38% higher – can you believe that?).

Even CVS which is not a grocery store, their price is $ 3.99 (UM is 17% higher) – Also downtown!

I think they are just bad at running a business. They opened in Southside and have just expanded their store to include an entire section for more beer and wine and now closing a similar section in the main store?

You can expect to pay 7% to 10% more in a store like UM, any more and people will learn to buy their groceries elsewhere – and they have.

3. New competition. Newflower Farmers Market opened in March in the old Carnival Space on Henderson, and while they are still working out the kinks they have cool things happening that keep you shopping. For example: on Wednesdays Newflower honors the new sales circular as well as the one from the previous week. I know that this is a different neighborhood but many downtown residents do have cars so this store is a viable option.

4. Selection. One blogging friend wrote the following:

I have to say their meat selection is bare boned sometimes nonexistent. The cuts of meat are either top sirloin or hefty priced Filet Mignon. To find a rib eye is rare. I shop at the market for the occasional dinners I cook.

I don’t bother with any menu planning because, in the past, I found they didn’t have everything I needed in stock. So…why is this? You can’t blame it all on the economy…we all need to eat, after all.

So either they are not pricing appropriately or not keeping adequate inventory…or both. As far as getting rid of the wine/beer/snacks and freezer section that doesn’t make any sense…period. They can’t say they don’t move those types of product. Now toiletries etc…maybe they can reduce some inventory.

I’d be willing to bet that someone is more likely to hop into the store to get a bottle of wine to take to a friend’s place or to go with their dinner vs stopping in to pick up some household cleaner or a bar of soap.

More thoughts:

The people there are nice, but the culture in Dallas does not fit that model, even Downtown. For some reason Downtown/Uptown residents prefer Albertsons and the Walmart Neighborhood Store.

However, the 7-11 model (while not a super market) is viable. There is a new 7-11 in my building open 24 hrs and they seem to be operating at a steady pace…. Read More

Since I’ve been in Dallas, “they’ve” been saving Urban Market – WHY? Let someone come in who can make money. Harsh words … but look at our Auto Industry. Let the market decide.

Why are there Bodegas on every corner in Brooklyn? Why are there so many Beauty Salons in Flatbush? because the market supports it.

Perhaps for the Cafe a Starbucks Business Model may work (isn’t it separate anyway?). The only thing I consistently go in that building for is the bank. I use the Dallas Federal Credit Union.

The Urban Market is convenient and is even within Walking distance from me … Yet I overlook it.

I didn’t write this piece to bash Urbanmarket. I ate there when it first opened and I have gone back from time to time. I wanted to offer suggestions from actual customers which might help the store.

I’m really rooting for this store to succeed. The resident base is growing downtown as well as the number of corporate relocations. If the store can hang on and make a few adjustments, success should be just around the corner.

More than A Grocery Store in Oak Cliff (with Video)

June 10, 2009

Yesterday was a great day in Oak Cliff. The Save A Lot grocery store had its official ribbon cutting for the brand new Save-a-Lot store at the Crest Shopping Center in the 2600 Block of Lancaster (map). Note: the Google street view also shows how it looked before the renovation.

Dwaine and I, along with the Mayor, city staff, neighbors, and the shopping center developer have been working on this for nearly two years. We were first looking at putting the store across the street from its current location. Everyone settled on keeping the store in the shopping center. The neighbors’ input was used in creating the store, from the items stocked on the shelves and beyond.

Save A Lot is an important part of this community. In these times, Save A Lot provides the opportunity for a family to get a healthy, balanced meal for $5. Compared to buying fast food every night for dinner because it’s cheap, a void is being filled in this neighborhood. People couldn’t wait to get into the store, as you can see people pushing carts by us even as the press conference progressed.

One major bonus: Save A Lot donated 5,000 pounds of food to the North Texas Food Bank! According to one of their reps that translates into 100 full carts of groceries for needy families at a time when donations are shrinking.

As I have said from the beginning, this is bigger than just a new grocery store.

In the process, the new store also provided us an opportunity to get rid of the asbestos filled theater that was on the north side of the center. The theater had been vacant for years and could not be rented due to the aforementioned issues. Now there’s a new grocery store in its place.

Mickey’s Catfish, owned by Vincent Hall, has just opened in the last couple of months. The mall and the neighborhood has a lot more energy now vs. before Dwaine took office.

You will also see that the entire mall is undergoing an extensive renovation and repaving, which was spearheaded by everyone working with the owners of the center as part of our Lancaster Road Initiative.

One of the comments that struck me the most were the ones made by Rick Meyer from Save A Lot:

“I’d like to take Dwaine on some road shows with me, (and) teach some folks in other communities what it’s all about to be a good partner.”

A comment like that makes it all worthwhile. When you see the various articles and conferences held with respect to what Southern Dallas needs to bring growth and development, this is what it’s all about. You can say it and claim you’re a leader all day long, but just like a World Series Championship baseball team you need a starter and a closer. We have that in our Mayor and Dwaine. This is one of the reason that I’m glad they’re both in office and in leadership positions on City Council. In his remarks, the Mayor also hinted at another store to be announced for District Four pretty soon!

This store and center will always be special to me. It’s where Dwaine’s campaign office was located when he first took office. The neighborhood was promised that this center would be a catalyst for positive change in that part of Oak Cliff and along Lancaster Road. I can’t count the number of nights we walked the center hoping that we could someday be a part of its turnaround. It’s here, but there’s more to come. The work is not done, but we’re moving in the right direction.

Video is below:

Remarks from from Rick Meyer, Vice President of Save-A-Lot.

Remarks from Vanessa Foster from Save-A-Lot and Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert.

Remarks from Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway.

Remarks from Cathy Misko and Vanessa Foster of Save A Lot and officials from the North Texas Food Bank.

Rawlins’ Take on an Oft-Forgotten Part of Town

June 9, 2009

If you haven’t seen it, Piedmont resident Rawlins Gilliland has an op-ed which ran in the Dallas Morning News. It’s a good take written by a long-time resident of the area, and focuses on the history and neighborhoods that make up the southeast part of Dallas.

A Lot of Things Going On in District Four

June 2, 2009

Even though the council is about to change a couple of members, there is still a long going on in terms of the city.

The first of four citywide budget hearings will take place tonight at Cedar Crest Golf Course (1800 Southerland Avenue-map) from 630–8PM. These meetings are different than the usual budget hearings that occur in July and August. Due to the large potential budget deficit, the council decided to have extra meetings in advance of the normally scheduled budget town hall meetings. This will be the only meeting in Oak Cliff.

Also, on Saturday we will have a teen summit which focuses on young males. Restore Our Image, Inc. and Real Black Men, Inc. in cooperation with Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway presents the “Boys to Men… Walking With a Swagger” Teen Summit.

This is for teen males only 13-18, though all adults are welcome.

The event will feature:

*Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway
*NBA player and Dallas hoop legend CJ Miles of the Utah Jazz
*Omar Jahwar from Vision Regeneration
*and other local community leaders making a difference.

There will be a continental breakfast and lunch and job information will be provided.

Van transportation will be provided from Beckley Saner Recreation Center, (114 W. Hobson) at 8:30 a.m. and return students at 1:30 p.m.

Finally, on Tuesday June 9th we will have the official ribbon cutting for the brand new Save-a-Lot store at the Crest Shopping Center (map).

In the process, the new store also provided us an opportunity to get rid of the asbestos filled theater that was on the north side of the center. The theater had been vacant for years and could not be rented due to the aforementioned issues. You will also see that the entire mall is undergoing an extensive renovation and repaving, which was spearheaded by me and Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Caraway working with the owners of the center as part of our Lancaster Road Initiative.

We hope you join us for these events.

Summer’s Coming – Time to Hang Out!

June 1, 2009

With Memorial day in the rear view mirror, it’s time to fully embrace Dallas.

In the last few weeks I have done a lot of things in and around Dallas. I’ve eaten at Screen Door, ALÓ, Royal Thai, and other spots. I’ve done some hiking at the Cedar Ridge Preserve, hung out at the Loft at Gilleys, and taken in the view of our skyline from Oak Cliff to the top of the Mercantile (see the header pic of this blog).

We have a lot to do in this town. Now that it’s summer, it’s time to go sit out on the lawn at Nasher and take in a movie or two as we did last year. I’m really looking forward to the completion of Main Street Gardens (though it’s a little ways from being open), which replaced a hideous block of buildings in the middle of downtown. The Dallas CityArts festival is coming in two weekends.

Until I saw the news on Saturday, I completely forgot about the 7-acre park in the Arts District that will be completed in four months. And there’s much more to do than I’ve listed. By the way, several of the things I’ve listed are FREE!

Life is what you make it. Dallas has a lot to see and do, don’t let it pass you by!